Monday marked the seventh anniversary of the shootings at my church, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist on Kingston Pike. Two persons were killed and seven more wounded at a Sunday morning children’s service. An Army veteran and longtime East Tennessean is now serving life without parole for those deaths, which he confessed were generated by his hatred of liberals and gays.
Tragedies like the one at my church have become commonplace, most recently in a Charleston church, a Chattanooga strip mall and a Louisiana theater. Each community that is hit experiences the event as a one-off tragedy – the deaths of innocent individuals, the acts of personal heroism, the gore, the physical and emotional suffering, the perpetrator driven by derangement or ideology or whatever, the public acts of mourning and above all the horror that it could happen “here” (and not somewhere else in the bigger America that – we assume – is more violent than our own peaceable community).
There must have been a hundred people enjoying Powell Station Park late Saturday. In addition to the dozen kids jumping on the splash pad there were two large groups of picnickers and even a couple of guys throwing discs in the meadow.
“Hey, guys!” I said. “Can’t wait until the baskets are in?”
Among the citizens who showed up for the Powell edition of Ed and Bob Show (i.e. the traveling constituent meeting road show put on by county commissioners-at-large Ed Brantley and Bob Thomas) was Chuck Ward, the “Fix it, Flip it or Skip it” radio show guy. Brantley introduced Ward to the crowd as a “probable” county commission candidate from District 9 next year.
By the time the Shopper-News caught up with Ward, a busy guy who’s always on his way to somewhere else, he’d downgraded his candidate status from probable to just the other side of possible. He’s just got too many irons in the fire, he said, which was why he was being interviewed by telephone on his way to a real estate agent’s office to pick up a gift he’d been told would be waiting for him at the front desk. When he walked in, he remarked that the place seemed deserted, yoo-hooed and got a terse response from some guy in the back.
House Speaker Beth Harwell has urged that part or all of the $400 million in additional state tax collections should go for new roads and existing road repairs. This is new money coming into the state treasury that was not anticipated when the state budget was enacted a few months ago.
What is significant here is that Harwell is voicing a game plan for the Legislature to tackle the road issue in a way that would enable it to avoid a gas tax increase vote in the 2016 session starting in five months. This would be new money one time for roads and would allow the lawmakers to skip a gas tax vote in an election year.
About three weeks ago, a birding friend and I spent a remarkably good birding morning at our newest state park, the Seven Islands State Birding Park, out past Strawberry Plains along the French Broad River.
It has a beautiful bunch of habitats – hilly woods, riversides and big fields planted with an abundance of bird-food vegetation. The birds evidently thought that it was still spring. They were all singing and hopping around on the treetops, including a number of them that you ordinarily hear but seldom see.
Not to say that those who run for office can’t be also good people, but the qualities that made Anne Woodle a crappy politician were the very things that made her a fine human – unswerving fealty to what she believed to be right and an unfettered refusal to compromise her principles, even when she knew that the stands she was taking were incompatible with longevity in office.
Like the time she served on the election commission and refused to vote to hire the candidate for administrator favored by Knox County’s most powerful local Democrat (that would be Joe Armstrong) because she believed another candidate was more qualified. Woodle’s candidate won, but she lost her seat come reappointment time.
In a phone interview last week, Superintendent Jim McIntyre confirmed that performance-based pay incentives will not be offered to teachers in the upcoming school year. The only exception is for teachers and administrators in Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) schools.
McIntyre said Rodney Russell, director of human capital strategy, is chairing a group of teachers to rework the old APEX bonus formula that was funded primarily through grants such as Race to the Top. The bonuses earned in the 2014-15 school year will be paid in November or December, he said, from a $3 million, one-time grant proposed by Mayor Tim Burchett from the county’s fund balance.